By Steve Gunn
Has anyone ever heard of a football player gaining 337 yards in one game – and not scoring a touchdown?
Spring Lake senior running back Steve Ready did that last Friday during his team’s exciting 38-36 conference victory over Allendale.
While Ready didn’t directly produce any points, he was the guy who kept the Laker offense on the field and marching toward one crucial touchdown after another. He carried the ball 42 times, and 21 of his runs resulted in first downs.
He averaged an impressive 7.7 yards per carry, despite the fatigue he must have been feeling after running the ball so much.
“It was kind of crazy,” Ready said about having such a great game without scoring a touchdown. “I don’t know what the odds are of that. I’ve been hearing about it this week. It was a pretty good game, my best yards-wise. I felt like I was running behind a very solid line. They played great on Friday. They popped open a ton of holes for me and I was able to pick up yards.”
Spring Lake head coach Dan Start said he doesn’t recall a performance quite like it.
“He moved the ball up and down the field for us all night, then we found ways to get it in,” Start said. “That was a first for me. With the number of touches he had, and first downs, I can’t think of anything like it.”
Whether it was by dumb chance, good weather conditions, or something in the air last Friday night, Ready was just one of several local high school football players who had career-type games.
Hesperia senior running back Mack Baird rushed for a career-high 201 yards on 24 carries and scored two touchdowns in his team’s exciting 21-14 victory over archrival Holton.
Muskegon Catholic junior running back Joe Waller scored five touchdowns and rushed for a career-high 231 yards in the Crusaders’ 40-0 victory over Manistee.
Ravenna quarterback Kyle Beebe passed for 157 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another 98 and scored four touchdowns, leading the Bulldogs to a 55-8 win over Hart.
Fremont senior quarterback Payton Mansfield passed for 266 yards, rushed for 147 yards and scored five touchdowns on the ground, pushing toe Packers to a 42-26 win over Central Montcalm.
Meanwhile, two more well-known area standouts – Muskegon senior quarterback Amari Crowley and Montague senior quarterback Drew Collins – also had monster nights.
Crowley threw for 194 yards and two scores while rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns in the Big Reds’ 49-20 victory over Zeeland East. Collins completed 11 of 17 passes for 205 yards and four touchdowns in Montague’s 63-0 win over Shelby.
It was truly a night for many offensive stars along the lakeshore to shine –including the Spring Lake running back who had an incredible night without scoring a single point.
Ready very nearly scored twice in the fourth quarter, once on a longer run when he made it the Allendale 4-yard line before getting pushed out of bounds, and once near the end of the game when he was stopped short at the goal line.
He said he was particularly excited on the longer run, because he could almost taste the end zone.
“I saw it was coming, the game was close, so I wanted that for sure, but obviously I didn’t get it,” Ready said.
Baird, the Hesperia running back, scored his first touchdown of the night with a five-yard run with 1:06 left in the first quarter. Then he gave the Panthers a two-score cushion over Holton when he broke loose for a 45-yard TD run with 1:12 left in the first half.
Equally important was his work on defense at the end of the game, after Holton had cut the lead to 21-14 and was threatening to score. Baird broke up two passes on Holton’s last drive to preserve the victory for his team on Homecoming night.
“I knocked the pass out of the sky, and that was all she wrote!” Baird said . “It was by fay my best game ever. It was a great feeling to get all of those yards and have us win against our rival on Homecoming. It was awesome.”
To top everything off, Baird was also crowned Hesperia’s 2020 Homecoming King, making it the kind of night he will someday share with his grandchildren.
“Like I was telling my friends later, the whole night was like something out of a movie!” he said.
MCC’s Waller did most of his damage in the first half against Manistee.
He opened the scoring with a two-yard touchdown run with seven minutes left in the first quarter, then added scoring bursts of 25 and 17 yards to leave MCC with a 21-0 lead headed into the second quarter.
There was more where that came from . Waller added a 70-yard sscamper that made the score 27-0, then another TD run from 32 yards out with just under two minutes left before halftime.
Waller said he was inspired by some friendly ribbing between himself and fellow Crusader running back Tommy Kartes.
“I just ran as bard as I could,” Waller said with a grin. “Tommy played pretty good a few games ago and I had to show him up. There’s a little friendly competition on the team, but we’re all focused on the same goal.”
Waller is a junior who has been on the Muskegon Catholic varsity since his freshman year, but had to wait until this season to become a starting running back.
“I worked hard to put more weight on so I could play the best I could I could this year,” said Waller, who attends Western Michigan Christian High School, but plays football for MCC under a co-op arrangement. “I had to prove myself. All through middle school I was a starting running back, but when I got to high school there were a lot of people in front of me.”
Waller said Friday’s game will stick in his memory for a long time.
“It was super exciting, just to be able to show everyone what I could do,” he said. “And we are undefeated right now. Our team is just so pumped!”